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LATEST REVIEWS
MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT, THE
"Exactly the movie it sounds like and better."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The latter part of Sam Elliott's career has been a lot of movies like "The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot" - not so much the high-concept premise of the title, but the look at a man slowly winding down, because though Elliott has a craggy face and a reassuring voice, he's vital enough to have been getting old for some time. That the film is about the aging as much as the adventure, if not more so, is what makes it such a delight. Well, that and watching Elliott inhabit this absurd but utterly believable role." (more)
LAPLACE'S WITCH
"Not quite so predictable as its characters might think."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There doesn't seem to be an English translation available for Keigo Higashino's novel "Laplace's Witch" yet, but I'm curious to what extent things maybe weren't changed but were emphasized and diminished between Higashino's book and this movie directed by Takashi Miike. It's easy for genre film fans to explain all its odd turns as coming from that eccentric filmmaker, but it does feel a bit like something shifted in the adaptation." (more)
EIGHTH GRADE
"Bo Knows Adolescence"
5 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "There have, of course, been countless movies over the years offering cinematic depictions of the high school experience, ranging from earnest dramas to wacky comedies to eye-opening documentaries. However, when it comes to big-screen chronicles of the equally momentous middle school years, the numbers are comparatively tiny. The reason for this is presumably the same reason why that particular age can be so challenging in the real world—nestled in the grey area between full childhood and full adolescence, it is a time that can be tricky from a storytelling perspective and therefore tends to get put to the side by most filmmakers. With his first film, “Eight Grade,” writer-director Bo Burnham has elected to journey into this long-overlooked storytelling area and has come up with something that so perfectly encapsulates all of the feelings and emotions generated by that particular section of the growing experience that even those who have long repressed their own memories of what it was like to go through that age will find them all coming back in a rush during what proves to be one of the funniest, wisest and most touching films about growing up to come along in a while, one that belongs right up there alongside "Edge of Seventeen" and "Lady Bird."" (more)
UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB
"The Sequel That Should Have Been Subtitled "Here We Go Again""
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "With its combination of astonishingly unlikable characters, a plot that was dopey and incoherent even by the usual standards of the Blumhouse horror factory and a gimmick—the entire story was presented in the form of an extended online Skype chat gone hideously wrong—that seemed to be going out of its way to be obnoxiously off-putting, the techno-thriller/mad slasher hybrid “Unfriended” was one of the least effective horror films in recent memory when it came out in 2015. And yet, the story, in which a group of high schoolers whose online chat session is violently interrupted by what appears to be the vengeful spirit of a classmate who was driven to suicide exactly one year earlier as the result of the online posting of an embarrassing video and who begins picking them off one by one, proved to be inexplicably popular at the box office (especially since it evidently only cost about $67.50 to make). For most observers, though, the only positive aspect of the whole ghastly experience was that since it ended with the entire cast dead (oh, Spoiler Alert), the possibility that a sequel would be forthcoming seemed unlikely at best." (more)
MAMMA MIA: HERE WE GO AGAIN!
"The Sequel That Should Have Been Subtitled "Dark Web""
1 stars
Peter Sobczynski says... "A couple of weeks ago, I was wracked with a bout of insomnia (no big surprise there) and while channel-hopping, I happened upon “Grease 2,” the sequel to the enormously popular 1978 musical film that was an equally gigantic flop when it opened in 1982. Although I personally find the film to be slightly better than the original—partly because it isn’t as smug as its predecessor and partly because then-unknown Michelle Pfeiffer maintained such a strong screen personality amidst all the dreck that it was obvious that she was going to be going places—it isn’t hard to understand why the film failed to attract even a fraction of the audience that “Grease” attracted and not just because it had the misfortune to open on the same day as an unheralded movie with the weird title of “E.T.” Basically, by the end of the film, all of the characters got what they wanted and their stories ended so tidily that there was nowhere else to go with them. Of course, plenty of sequels have been made from stories that seemed to have had conclusive conclusions but musicals, both on stage and on screen, have proven surprisingly resistant to sequels for the most part—hyped follow-ups to “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Annie” are among the biggest flops in Broadway history while the only movie musical sequels to achieve real popularity of late have been the “High School Musical” films (and even then, only the last film played theatrically)." (more)
BOILED ANGELS: THE TRIAL OF MIKE DIANA
"Free speech deserves a stronger defense."
3 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana" is the sort of documentary that, in its home stretch, casually reveals how it could have been a much more interesting movie had it changed its focus a bit rather than mostly serving as an overview of a broader issue. Yes, the history of underground comics and censorship is important, but most of this film's audience will know that; it's the details beyond Mike Diana being the only artist to be convicted of obscenity in America that make this a good story and would make it into an interesting movie." (more)
BUY BUST
"A ferocious shootout of a movie that may almost be too action-packed."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Erik Matti's war-on-drugs action piece fits squarely in the category of Films That Do Not Mess Around, marrying the non-stop combat of Dante Lam's "Operation Mekong" series with a harsh cynicism about the use of force on display. It makes for the sort of orgy of violence that challenges the viewer to be horrified by what's going on even if decades of watching action movies has conditioned us to primarily be impressed at just how well Matti and his crew stage the second half." (more)
ISLE OF DOGS
"If you like Wes, you'll like this. If not..."
5 stars
Rob Gonsalves says... "Wes Anderson’s stop-motion fantasy 'Isle of Dogs' supposedly unfolds in a futuristic Japan, but it really takes place in one of the many neat boxes in Anderson’s head." (more)
ROOM LAUNDERING
"More interesting than just evicting unwanted spectral roommates."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The light-and-dark tone of "Room Laundering" is established early as cute childlike narration quickly gives way to murder, and then we're just as quickly talking about the practice of the title as a con game. It seems weirdly schizophrenic, but that's appropriate and oddly respectful for a movie that builds itself out of how ghosts are a downright odd phenomenon." (more)
MEGA TIME SQUAD
"A gang of one (times five)."
4 stars
Jay Seaver says... "SCREENED AT THE 2018 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: If "The Man Who Folded Himself" had been about a small-time crook who wasn't particularly bright, it might have wound up something like this freewheeling, half-nonsensical comedy that wastes practically no time jumping into some ridiculous time-travel shenanigans and then shows the good sense to stay in its lane, piling dumb-crook silliness up as far as it can go and then getting out before things collapse." (more)

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